After years of studying, clinicals and nursing board exams, the 2013 graduating class of the University of Virgin Islands Bachelor of Science in Nursing program were welcomed into their new chosen profession with a pin.
"I’m elated. I didn’t think this day would come," said Laurel Milton, a student who participated in the nursing program while working full-time at Gladys Abraham Elementary School. Milton is also a corporal in the Marine Corps. "I had a good support system. It was a great experience."
Eight graduating nursing students participated in their official pinning ceremonies Thursday night at UVI’s administration and conference center. Milton sat next to her fellow graduates at the ceremony, which included Jane Bruno, Valmree Croft, Althea Duke, O’Shana Garcia, Jourdan Malkmus, Stephanie Torres and Toia Sylvester. The ninth student, J’Nique Smith, missed the ceremony due to illness.
UVI will hold the same ceremony for St. Croix students on Friday at 2 p.m. in the Great Hall on the Albert A. Sheen campus.
The students will be awarded nursing degrees on both campuses.
The graduating nurses wore traditional white clothing and each student nurse was pinned with a small ornament with the UVI logo on the front and the school’s nursing insignia on the back. The pinning ceremony is a historical rite of passage into the nursing profession and a reminder of nursing’s well-founded historic promise to serve the infirm, according to a statement released by UVI’s public relations department.
The new nurses were presented with pins by the nursing faculty, lit traditional candles and then recited the Nightingale Pledge. The pledge is named after Florence Nightingale, considered by many to be the founder of modern nursing, said UVI Dean of Nursing Cheryl Franklin.
"Not everyone can be a nurse," Franklin said. “It is still a struggle. But it is a struggle of love.”
Nursing professor Maxine Nunez spoke about the importance and history of the ceremony. Nunez explained the nursing pin is a type of badge worn by nurses to identify the nursing school from which they graduated. These pins have symbolic meaning, just as the traditional nursing hat did, before the hat was replaced by the pin.
"We think of these as treasured moments," Nunez said. "The cap went away as things sometimes do. In its place came the pin."
Franklin traced the origins of the nursing pin back to the Maltese cross and the Order of St. John.
"The pin is literally and symbolically a cross to bear and medal of honor," Franklin said. "It’s a badge of courage because nurses are courageous in the face of the finality of death."
The ceremony is more than symbolism to Torres, a 23-year-old from Manila, Philippines. When she first entered the BSN program she had a hard time speaking, preferring to stay silent.
"I have better communication skills now," Torres said. "I had a mental block and my professors helped me overcome that fear."
Milton also said she is familiar with fear. She sees it all the time as a school nurse, she said. The students come running to her with scrapes, cuts and bruises, and these experiences help inform her role as a new graduate.
"You help them push through the pain with empathy," Milton said.